A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors

Conan the Barbarian Atlantean Sword
20th Anniversary Edition

A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly

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Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!

I remember hearing those words for the first time while seated in a dark movie theatre over twenty years ago. A scene that I will never forget then followed that opening dialogue. That image of molten metal flowing across the screen in the shape of a sword, accompanied by a booming score by composer Basil Poledouris, is simply unforgettable. The motion picture Conan the Barbarian not only launched the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger; it also left an indelible imprint on the minds of an entire generation of young sword lovers. While not exactly in the class of a Shakespearean drama Conan the Barbarian was still a high-budget endeavor, and is today considered to be a fantasy classic. As a young sword collector whose journey was just beginning, I remember thinking that if I could only have one sword it would be one of those which I viewed up on the big screen.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Albion Armorers, it is now possible to not only own a sword like those used in the movie, it is now possible to own nearly an exact copy of them. Over two years ago Albion Armorers began the process of gaining the rights to manufacture these well-known bits of cinematic history. Gaining the license to manufacture these swords was quite an undertaking in itself. Howard Waddell and Company invested a large amount of time and effort (and expense) in order to bring these swords to life for the sword-loving community. Anyone who has held the final product in his or her hands will agree that it was well worth the effort.

Over the years there have been numerous replicas made by various companies, none to the exacting standards that Albion has chosen to employ. Albion's commitment was such that they chose to involve the sword's original maker, well-known sword maker Jody Samson. Jody is now a full-time employee of Albion Armorers and directly oversees the production of the company's Conan line. The film's director, John Milius was also involved the process, as Mr. Milius was still in possession of the original film swords. All of this time and effort has resulted in swords that are dead ringers for those used by Big Arnold and friends. As I stated in the beginning of this review these swords are "near exact" replicas. There are two key differences in the new swords. First, the originals were made with blades ground from 440C stainless steel. The Albion versions use blades ground from 1075 carbon steel. The originals were also made with no distal taper in the blade. Apparently the film's producers were concerned with durability. Albion's versions feature blades with a fifty percent distal taper. Other than these two points, I doubt if Conan himself would be able to tell the difference.

There are currently two swords in Albion's Conan line: the Atlantean and the Father's Sword. The Atlantean is the subject of this review.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:7 pounds, 12 ounces
Overall length:38 7/8 inches
Blade length:28 1/8 inches
Grip length:5.35 inches
Profile taper:3 inches to 2.1 inches at final curve to point
Distal taper:.24 inch at base; 50% taper to point
Point of Balance:4.5 inches from guard

Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.

Fit and Finish
The Atlantean arrived packaged in Albion's usual white cardboard box. Within that box, however, was a pinewood box especially made for the sword. The outside of this box was attractively branded with Albion's company logo. Within the box the Atlantean was securely held by wooden braces, and tied in place with twine. I doubt if even some of our professional commercial carriers could unduly damage this sword in transit. Many Atlantean owners have apparently utilized this box as a means of displaying their sword.

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The Engraving
The sword's blade, manufactured from 1075 carbon steel, is finished with a very even and attractive satin finish. The blades are finished on the very same BurrKing machine used by Jody Samson when making the original swords. The runes on the blade's ricasso are executed very cleanly, and with some of the deepest engraving that I have ever seen. Most of the engraving seen on other production swords is rather poorly done and looks cheap, not so the engraving on the Atlantean. As a point of interest, the engraving is accomplished using the very same company (Daniels Engraving of California), and the same electrode that was used in the manufacture of the original swords. The blade's fuller is very precise and cleanly executed. The flats of the blade are made with a mild hollow grind, which gives the blade a very attractive visual appeal. As standard the Atlantean comes unsharpened although this can be done at Albion for an additional cost. It is my opinion that buyers should purchase their Atlantean in the unsharpened state. Since this sword is viewed primarily as a collectible it should be left in mint condition. Sharpening will only decrease its long-term value. The blade was seated into the hilt very firmly with no gaps or play of any kind.

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The Ricasso
Now we move on to some of the sword's most attractive features: the guard and pommel. The Atlantean's guard and pommel are manufactured from bronze, using the lost wax method of casting. I have seen many examples of this method over the years and the results have ranged from very good to extremely poor. It is my pleasure to state most strongly that the Atlantean's furniture is the most finely executed example of lost wax casting that I have ever seen. The detail of guard and pommel are done in high relief with no evidence of the pits and slag lines that are so often evident in cheaper castings. The details of the pommel's skull motif, and the dragons that form the guard are simply outstanding. The langets that run down from the guard and frame the blade's ricasso are very tight and evenly fitted. In regards to these langets and the blade's ricasso, I found the only negative comment for this review. The edges of the ricasso that fit into the langets show evidence of machining and are not perfectly finished. The inner edges of the langets themselves are a bit rough. This is not due to the casting process but evidently comes from the shaping of the wax itself. The wax simply wasn't adequately smoothed prior to casting. These aren't big details, nor are they horrendously obvious. In fact I did have to specifically look for these types of things. These details wouldn't cause me to decline a purchase; however, they shouldn't exist on a sword in this price range.

The Atlantean's grip is bound with a special cord that replicates that used on the original. The grip is tightly bound and sealed with some kind of epoxy. The end result is a very attractive grip that provides a firm gripping surface.

Handling Characteristics
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The Pommel
Well, what can I say about the Atlantean's handling qualities? At a weight of nearly eight pounds the sword is certainly no lightweight. In fact, the Atlantean's weight puts it far outside the parameters for a functional sword of this size. The sword does have a rather nice static balance, but once it is set into motion its weight becomes a hindrance. I was able to grasp the sword in a reverse grip and twirl it around in best Arnold fashion. I was able to maintain this for a few seconds before my shoulders began to feel the strain. In short, you'll need to have bigger guns than mine if you want to act like Big Arnold. I have no doubt that the Atlantean would be able to cut through any test medium of choice if it was sharpened. It just can't be done quickly or repeatedly.

The above comments should not be taken as a criticism of the Atlantean specifically, or of Albion's manufacturing methods in general. Collectors choosing to buy the Atlantean aren't searching for a high-performance sword, or even a historically accurate one. What they're looking for is a piece of cinematic history that they can call their own, and the Atlantean delivers this in abundance. During the long process of making this sword a reality Albion fielded many requests for changing various details of the sword's construction in order to improve its handling qualities. I firmly believe that Albion took this point as far as is possible. The intent was to manufacture a replica of a specific sword. If too many details were changed the Atlantean wouldn't have been a true replica at all. The final product is a sword that, while heavy, is made from quality materials and assembled with much attention to detail.


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The Cross-guard

One thing that I normally don't comment on in a review is pricing since an object's worth is really a subjective thing. I do believe that it is warranted in this case. At a price of $3000 US (at the time of this review) the Atlantean certainly isn't cheap. One-of-a-kind swords from notable custom makers can be had for this amount or less. Many collectors will scoff at the Atlantean's price tag; however, fans of Robert E. Howard's most famous character will not. Collectors of motion picture history have certainly been eager to purchase Albion's Atlantean. Conan enthusiasts have long clambered for a true replica of their favorite Cimmerians sword, now they have it. Albion is selling these swords as fast as they can make them. The day that I received the Atlantean my nine-year old son came home and saw it sitting by the fireplace. His eyes bulged out of his head and he shouted, "Dad's got the Conan Sword!" He was very disappointed when I told him that it had to go back. As for myself, when I first pulled this sword from its box I got the same thrill that I experienced all those years ago while sitting in that dark movie theatre. How can you put a price tag on something like that?

About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.

Conan™, Father's Sword™, and Atlantean™ Sword are registered trademarks of Conan Properties
Photographer: Nathan Robinson

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